We’re living in anxious, tense times.
Stress has its adaptive uses, but it can also be hugely detrimental to both your emotional and mental health. Work is a big source of stress, as are family and relationship issues.
For many people, there’s long been a resistance to starting therapy, but luckily, that resistance is fading. The decision to seek therapy is a big one, but it’s not the only choice you’ll need to make.
It’s also fair to wonder for how long you’ll continue to benefit from therapy. Here are some things to consider when deciding how long your time in therapy should last.
Are you making progress?
Progress can be a hard thing to define. But you and your therapist should sit down and try to define it as best you can. It’s not going to be a one-time discussion. Instead, you should come back to it at various points.
Some therapists will want to make a list of goals with you during the first couple of sessions. Other therapists will prefer a more unstructured, exploratory approach. It’s up to you and your therapist to work together to decide which method works best.
Let’s say you moved to New York City and quickly feel overwhelmed by all the hustle and bustle. Seeking out NYC therapy is a good way for you to grapple with those feelings in a safe space, as well as figure out ways to move past them and become more confident about your place in life. In this specific scenario, some people might set a goal to get out and be more social. Other people might decide to go to the gym a few times a week so that they’ll feel more positive about their life.
The goals you set for therapy should be challenging, tangible, and realistic. They shouldn’t be so big that they feel impossible, but they also shouldn’t be so small that you feel like nothing is really changing.
Are you able to open up?
You can’t have a therapist-patient relationship without a sense of openness and honesty. Your therapist can’t help you if you aren’t fully opening up about what’s really bothering you. You need to give as full a picture as possible of what’s going on with your life.
A good therapist will sense if you’re holding back about certain things. They can help you dig deeper without traumatizing you further. For instance, there’s a difference between a therapist who says, “Do you think something else is going on?” and one who says, “I wish you would cut the crap already and be truthful.”
Don’t feel bad if you open up to your therapist just fine at first and then hit a wall. That’s not unheard of in a therapeutic environment, and it doesn’t necessarily mean either you or your therapist are doing anything wrong.
A therapist is there, among other things, to provide a fresh perspective. And if the therapist keeps saying the same thing, it might be because you’re repeating harmful patterns in life.
Or it might mean the therapy process has run its course and it’s time to work toward ending therapy.
Finally, you should be able to tell your therapist if they say something that you believe is inappropriate, offensive, or even just confusing. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What do you mean by that?”
An experienced, reputable therapist will want to speak with clarity as often as possible. What has worked for previous patients might not work as well for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We all have different communication styles.
Speaking up about an odd moment will, at best, clear the air and let you move on. At worst, it will let you know that something about this particular therapist may not be a good fit for you.
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